Blog

November 10, 2021

Meet ‘Online School’ award winner and English leader, Tracey Powell

Tracey Powell is a learning development programme champion and a leader of learning for English. She has been at King’s InterHigh for five years and has been a part of the Arts learning development programme for just over a year. To recognise the broad range of skills she has and support she offers, she recently won Inspired’s Online School Award.

We asked Tracey to give us some insight into her roles, what aspects she loves and how she overcame her biggest challenges over the past year.

How do you feel about winning your Online School Award?

There are many teachers doing a great job here at King’s InterHigh and everyone deserves recognition for it, but I am very grateful and was really surprised!

Could you please tell us about your role as learning development programme champion and leader of learning for English?
I have worked at King’s InterHigh for five years now. The Arts Learning Development Programme role (which encompasses foreign languages such as Arabic, as well as English, Art, Music, Drama and Film Studies) became available last year. I went for the position because I love the course writing aspect of teaching and I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to technology and creativity! To my excitement, I was accepted.
This is my second year on the programme and the main aim is to ensure students are engaged. I achieve this by designing curriculum-aligned animations, quizzes, polls and much more, which make learning as fun as it can be.
I also help teachers combine their teaching with real world events. For example, I created an online Halloween-themed escape room this year, in which students had to solve subject-specific questions in order to escape. They loved it! We are also currently producing festive animations for a variety of subjects. I find this creative process so exciting as it helps make studies fun!

What does it mean to you to be part of the Inspired community?
When I looked into the Inspired Education Group online, I was so impressed! It’s really exciting to be part of a much bigger global group. The potential collaboration with other schools can only be beneficial to our students and teachers. I’m thrilled to see what the future holds in terms of this.

What would you say to other education professionals wanting to excel in English and in learning development?
I would recommend course writing, as it’s an activity that can make teachers feel creative and in control of their lessons. All our English teachers have some kind of course writing responsibilities, which helps us learn from each other, share ideas and strengthen our team.
When I write lessons, I try to keep in mind the attention span of my students. I want to make sure there is an activity which can offer variety and keep students on their feet. This may include a video, interactive game, breakout room, or discussion, keeping them actively listening and learning to their full potential.

Have you faced challenges over the past year and if so, how did you overcome them?
The main challenge I faced was mastering King’s InterHigh’s new technology. To achieve this, I worked closely with our designer and spent time learning independently. I love a challenge!
The main software we use is Articulate 360. This helps us create resources such as interactive handbooks, quizzes and video editing.
For example, we use Articulate Storyline to create quizzes such as multiple choice, drag and drop and hotspot, but we can also use this software to create learning resources such as topic guides and revision material. We also use ‘Vyond’ to create animations which we can then incorporate into Storyline to really bring the learning to life.
We also use ‘Rise’ as part of Articulate 360, which is like an interactive handbook whereby you can create multiple topic/sub-topic modules for students to work through or use as revision tools. You can incorporate a variety of multimedia in these such as videos, podcasts, as well as quizzes, PDFs, games and so much more. This has helped us reimagine education so we’re never just trying to shove a classroom into the computer.
I’ve also utilised Rise for new starter handbooks. This has helped us develop interactive packs for our new students, outlining what their course will include and gives them a flavour of some of the topics/texts taught through various uses of multimedia. This is much more helpful and engaging than a normal stagnant PDF and hopefully promotes their curiosity and excitement for their online academic journey.

What is the best part of working in the English department and at King’s InterHigh?
I love the English department because English literature is my passion. The ability to communicate and to be analytical is crucial to almost every aspect of life and so many jobs. I hope to inspire a love for English amongst our students.
One significant benefit of online learning is its ability to help tackle bullying. Students can be in the comfort of their home, or a safe environment, and don’t have to turn on their cameras. This helps reduce the characteristics that can sometimes fuel negative behaviour including background, classism, racism, gender, and so on. Our students work together as equals, comfortable with sharing ideas without fear or judgement.

What is the most difficult part of your role and how do you rise to this challenge?
Wearing so many hats! In addition to being part of the English department and running my courses, I am also the learning development programme champion for the arts department, which covers so many subjects, including those I’m less specialised in, such as foreign languages.
I love a challenge though, so this keeps me on my toes! To help me manage all these tasks, as well as helping colleagues, I use my calendar for everything and make sure I’m well organised. I also focus on prioritising my workload and write everything down so I never worry about forgetting anything.

Can you talk us through your vision for the future of English as a subject area and learning as a whole?
I hope all schools will utilise technology to the best of their abilities – and look to those doing it effectively to share best practice. InterHigh is in a prime position to help with this, as we’ve been teaching online since 2005. All these efforts will help teachers futureproof their courses. Students are always on their phones and other digital devices, so we need to encourage more integration with technology within teaching and learning. Students are in tune with technology so they will adapt to this easily. We just need to ensure teachers feel the same so teaching as a sector can be brought into the modern world.
To achieve this, I feel there needs to be a lot more training for online teaching and education technology. This will help teachers deliver engaging lessons no matter what happens in terms of the pandemic. If all teachers felt confident delivering lessons online, then widespread problems like illiteracy could be tackled as reading and writing lessons would avoid disruption. This is a particularly pressing problem, as the Government has predicted some 200,000 students will reach secondary school unable to read or write as a result of pitfalls in online learning, caused by the pandemic.

What motivates you every day?
It’s the students, first and foremost!
I also get a lot of enjoyment from the positive feedback I get from the creative things I make for lessons, such as animations and interactive activities. I love how much this creativity benefits students and fosters a love of learning!

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